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Your Win Themes Are Not About You

Winning proposals contain relevant win themes.

And if you aren’t winning with your federal proposal responses, get introspective. Win themes play a crucial role in bid responses. So, let’s dive into the topic.

What is a win theme?

According to Shipley Associates, win themes are “statements in proposals that link a customer benefit to the discriminating features of your offer.”

Let that sink in. Maybe read it again. Because it’s true. It’s not just about your differentiators. It’s about whether your differentiators matter to your customers.

(All of this assumes you know your differentiators. True differentiators cannot be claimed by your competitors. This is a challenging, ongoing exercise – and is outside the topic of this blog.)

Think about it this way: In government contracting, your bid response is like your resume. Your differentiators are your special skills you highlight in your resume. Your win themes connect those special skills to the position or the employer – it is the tie to relevance that shows why the potential employer will care. Depending on the job you are applying for, the skills (win themes) you highlight will change.

Win themes, at their core, are your most important differentiators in the eyes of your audience. And differentiators are what set you apart from other businesses offering similar products or services.

For example, one IT company may have the ability to provide 24-hour customer service to a government agency, while another may have limited availability. If the evaluation criteria lead you to believe the agency needs 24-hour support, you have a win theme.

Done correctly, win themes lead an agency to pick your business over competitors.

What differentiators should I use for my win themes? All of them? Or just a few?

Win themes must matter to your evaluator to matter at all.

Win themes are the handful of differentiators that truly set you apart from everyone else who might be submitting to the same RFP. Ideally, your company has a plethora of great differentiators – your challenge is to emphasize the ones that matter to the audience.

How do I choose which win themes to use in my bid response?

Go to the evaluation criteria, and then pay attention to the weight each is given. The contracting team is telling you what they care about. (i.e., Technical approach is more important than pricing and past performance, etc.) Every RFP is different, even if just slightly. You must tailor every proposal to every unique RFP.

For example, if an agency identifies past performance as one of the most important evaluation criteria, background on successful past contracts or positive CPARs might be something you’d emphasize (if you have it).

Can I use my win themes to address my competitors’ gaps?

There is a difference between being snarky and showcasing your strengths. Know your competitors and know their strengths and weaknesses. But spin that to the positive.

Don’t call out a competitor directly – even if you can obviously provide a superior service.

Do hint at competitors’ gaps for key requirements in a way that highlights your own win themes. Do this tastefully, and without calling someone else out by name.

Overall, win themes play a crucial role in winning government contracts. By identifying which of your differentiators result in the strongest win themes, you establish a framework for the win.

Need help identifying your organization’s differentiators, and connecting them with win themes? Need support on your proposal management? Contact our team today.

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