Create a Compelling Story (Part 4 in Disciplined Business Development)

Now the RFP is out. Great, let’s just steal some stuff from the last eight proposals and slam it into a new Word document, then ship it!

Not so fast.

You need to carefully consider what the state is asking for – sometimes just expressed as part of the scope or work, or more directly in a question – and answer the question – completely and concisely. Repeating the requirements is not helpful and considered non-responsive. Saying “what” you will do is, in the end, just repeating the requirements. Instead, you need to answer the question with “how” and “why”. “How” you will do the work, “why” your way is better. Neither are easy.

Regarding “how”: one of the most significant issues we encounter in proposal development is the lack of a clear and detailed business solution to the requirement. If you don’t have this clear and detailed solution, it will be hard to answer the question – and it will show. There are a variety of different elements that can go into operational solution planning. Here are three key ones.

  • First, you should be able to explain who is going to perform the work for a particular function. Who are the people, what are their job titles, what skills and qualifications must they have, how are they organized, who is accountable, and so on?
  • Second, you need to have a detailed business process for a particular function. What are the inputs, what are the outputs, what are the steps, what are the decision points, who performs each step, how do you correct problems, and so on?
  • Third, you should know what information systems support the process. What systems are used, how do they connect, what features support the business process, how do you eliminate multiple lookup and data entry, and so on?

If you have these all well-described – and if they are tuned to the needs of the Medicaid population and the state requirements – then you will be much better prepared to write the proposal.

Once you have defined “how” you will accomplish the work, you need to explain “why” your way is better.  This is where we get into techniques of argument – rhetoric. “Our solution is better because of x, y, and z.” And then explain each of x, y, and z. Show data, true stories (de-identified as appropriate), charts, graphs, comparison tables, and so on. Make sure that data you use is relevant and comparable for the case you are trying to prove.

If you don’t have data – you need to start capturing and using it now, well before the RFP comes out. In fact, scanning several RFPs will likely give you some ideas about key numbers that you will want to have – and those often correspond closely to the operational reports the state will require anyway.

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