The Win theme development process is critical to a strong proposal. Without great win themes, we would all be doomed to failure.

Here is a primer on win themes.  And even SENIOR personnel will probably find ideas below they had not thought of.

“I don’t know who you are.

I don’t know your company.

I don’t know your company’s product.

I don’t know what your company stands for.

I don’t know your company’s customers.

I don’t know your company’s record.

I don’t know your company’s reputation.

Now — what was it you wanted to sell me?”

-McGraw-Hill 1958 Ad

This McGraw-Hill ad originally appeared in 1958 and it’s an iconic business ad of the 20th Century. In fact, it was named “Best Business-to-Business Ad of the 20th Century”.

The best win themes can succinctly answer the points in the ad above. While wordsmanship is important in developing win themes, there are other critical factors that can make or break a win theme.

Win Theme Development

Content DO’s

  1. Distinguish Our Company from the competition.
  2. Directly relate to the requirements of the Solicitation and the concerns of program and client.
  3. Clearly identify benefit(s) to Customer.

Structure DO’s

  1. Stated in a nutshell – one/two sentences; woven throughout critical points of proposal in variation.
  2. Must be substantiated at some point in the proposal.

Sample Win Themes (from a proposal to the Marine Corps [technical approach])

Our project team developed and implemented reliable manpower management systems for the Navy that reduced staffing by 23 percent.


Because our project team has developed similar manpower systems for the Navy, we can anticipate the problems that are likely to arise and will be prepared to effectively mitigate them.

A further example: (personnel section)

Our personnel turnover rate is less than 5 percent in an industry that averages a 15 percent turnover annually. This clearly demonstrates our ability to attract and retain the qualified personnel required on this important effort.


Our personnel turnover rate of less than 5 percent ultimately benefits the customer by ensuring project team stability and project continuity.

A further example: (corporate experience section)

Our past work experience includes developing and maintaining both the hardware and the software of the ADP systems used by the Army to manage worldwide training programs.

Slowly Build Out Your Win Theme Foundation

 A win theme can start with a simple one-line sentence like this, Our management approach uses online notifications of operational problems. This is our foundation, but it lacks the main structures. However, if we incorporate the win theme attributes below, we can create a more compelling win theme.   

 Win Theme Attributes:

  1. a) An asset, person, strength, technique, tool, or capability.
  2. b) An advantage, value, benefit, or savings to the customer
  3. c) A quantifiable and measurable metric of performance or improvement
  4. d) Proof of the claim, benefit, or capability with results supported by statistics from an actual performance for another client.

Progressive Win Theme Development:

  1. Bad: Our management approach uses online notifications of operational problems.
  2. Marginal: Our Fast Track software reduces time and cost of reporting status.
  3. Better: Daily dashboard-based postings provide awareness of operational problems reducing administrative time by 60% to meet your service level agreements.
  4. Best: Our Fast Entry prompting software design enabled us to exceed SLA metrics of 99% for reporting problems on seven similar DoD contracts.

Other Samples of Strong Win Themes

  1. Only We Can Do This – Our team is CMMI level 5 qualified and will save 10 percent on cost of rework due to errors in specifications.
  2. Proof of Claim and Benefit – Our technical approach is based on five years of communications infrastructure operation that has delivered 99.9 percent availability for 15,000 users (actual findings of an independent assessor are even better).
  3. Done it Before – Our proposed process is 95 percent similar to what we have successfully accomplished on programs x, y, and z.
  4. Key Manager Expertise – Our Program Manager successfully managed a program similar in scope and size for five years that met all quality and performance metrics.
  5. Low-Risk Solution – Our technical solution uses proven ITIL, ISO, and CMMI proven and certified processes successfully used on 14 other programs in the last 5 years.

Also, check out  our Win Themes Checklist 

Need upcoming proposal support?