The Development Source

Why are Great Proposal Win Themes Important?

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 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

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.  Proposals should include no more than several win themes.  Anything more is too difficult for reviewers to remember.

There are two good reasons to spend time developing your win themes.  First, it will provide you with a framework for developing your proposal.  And second, it will help focus reviewers on the main points of your argument, story, and information that comprise your proposal.  In other words, win themes are good for you and good for reviewers. 

Win themes are not mindless sales slogans that we see in advertising.  They are carefully developed statements that contain (1) a central idea that is of benefit to your customer; and (2) proof.  They help reviewers answer the question:  Why should we select you?  As Simmons points out, “well-written themes provide clear and convincing reasons for capturing the attention (and ultimately the imagination) of evaluators.”

To start creating good win themes, take these steps:

  • List the customer’s main issues.
  • List a feature of your solution that will address each customer’s issue.
  • Define the issue concrete and specifically.
  • Try to quantify the benefit.
  • Draft a proposal theme statement that links the features and benefits to the customer issue.

Here are some examples of good proposal themes that follow this approach:

Our “e-business” software will reduce your shipping and handling costs by 12 percent in year one of the contract.

Our team of 14 engineers has a combined total of over 200 years of experience successfully designing, testing, and implementing transition plans on-time and within budget.

Our Green Team has completed 33 Phase II remediation contracts for EPA in the past three years with “Excellent” ratings.

Good win themes are the scaffolding for competitive proposals.  Take the time to develop them at the beginning of your proposal development process and you will produce better proposals.


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