Preparing an Oral Proposal that Wins Large Contracts

Christopher Witt —  November 9, 2015

How to prepare an oral proposalAn oral proposal for large contracts — government and commercial — goes by many names: a pitch, a sales presentation, an interview, or an orals.

Because a lot of money — millions, sometimes billions of dollars — is at stake, an oral proposal is one step — one of the final steps — in a long process. They are typically preceded by several conversations and exchanges of information and, of course, by a formal written proposal.

Your goal, when preparing and presenting an oral proposal is to win the contract.

You do so by showing the customer how your people, processes, tools and technology will provide better value than the competition: how you will give them more of what they want (features and benefits) and less of what they don’t want (costs, delays, risks, etc.)

Preparing a winning oral proposal is a complex process. It involves many players and considerations.

The Most Important Issues to Address when Preparing an Oral Proposal

1. Know your customer.

Who are the chief players? What are their roles in selecting and working with the provider? What are their chief concerns? How do they think and feel about your company?

What do they want? Why do they want it? How badly do they want it? What special features and benefits matter most to them?

What do they not want? (These issues are sometimes called their “hot buttons.” They are one of the most important issues to address.) Why do they not want it? How badly do they not want it?

2. Know your offering.

How will your solution give them more of what they want and, just as importantly, less of what they don’t want than the competition’s solution?

3. Know your competition.

Because the value of your offering is judged in relationship to the competition’s offering, the more you know about the competition, the better

How will your solution compare to what the competition is proposing in terms — cost, schedule, performance — of what they customer most values?

4, Know your differentiators or discriminators.

If everything else — quality, price, schedule, etc. — is relatively equal, the thing that will sell your solution is being different in a way that the customer values.

Show how you are different (and prove it). And show how that difference will give the customer what they want in a way they want it.

5. Know your people.

Oral proposals for large contracts often involve many, many people: business development professionals, executives, technical experts, the people who will implement the solution, the people overseeing the proposal, and the people who will make the presentation.

(Remember, the customer wants to see and hear from the people they’ll be working with.)

They all have their parts to play. An oral proposal coach can help them make the best use of their time and talents.

Have you worked on this type of oral proposal, sales pitch, or bid? What’s your experience been? What do you think are the most important elements to address when preparing an oral proposal?


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Christopher Witt

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Chris Witt was born in Los Angeles, California. He currently lives in San Diego. He works as a speech and presentations consultant, an executive speech coach, and an orals coach.

2 responses to Preparing an Oral Proposal that Wins Large Contracts

  1. Can I add another step. Review every pitch when you have done it especially if you didn’t get the job. Learn from your mistakes and the good things you did. Get the team together for a de-brief. Firms can spend huge amounts pitching but often don’t learn their lessons. So build in more learning into the process.

  2. John,

    Great point.

    I always try to meet with the team right after their presentation to do an After-Action Review:
    1) What did you expect to happen?
    2) What actually happened?
    3) What accounts for the difference?
    4) What do you want to remember to do or not to do next time.

    Then I ask them to capture their learning for subsequent proposals.