By Sarah Weaver, M.SAME  

Winning contract opportunities with sustainable strategies can be tricky. As the government focuses more on energy and sustainability, it is important to understand the unique needs associated with each customer and each installation.

Providing effective strategies to help deliver resilience and sustainability can push your proposal to the top. But as many companies discover, simply throwing in sustainable features is not enough to win.

If your competition has the same solution, how do you differentiate your approach?

The first step is to develop your energy strategy with your client in mind. What is their mission? What are their key requirements? Where are they located? What are the limitations related to budget or location? It is crucial to identify the tangible and quantifiable benefits to the customer. Show proof based on real data and experience.

The customer must be able to identify differentiators between your proposal and those of competitors.

The second step is to strategically present the information in a compelling manner. No matter how innovative your idea may be, you will not be able to sell it if you cannot present a convincing case. And even if your solution is not unique, by incorporating presentation strategies, you can make your proposal memorable.

How do you incorporate your understanding of the customers’ needs into your proposal?

People remember experiences. Tell your story so that it engages and makes people care. Frame the details of data and specifications with what they mean for the client—and why the client should care about them.

Notice the difference between these?

“The design includes a photovoltaic system for the facility.”


“The installation’s location in Phoenix is a prime location to take full advantage of a photovoltaic system. To meet the Air Force’s long-term energy security goals, our design features a 1.5-MW photovoltaic system to provide 100 percent of the new facility’s energy needs, thereby reducing the base’s reliance on purchased energy.”

In the first statement, the evaluator is left asking, “So what?” However, one can easily enhance the impact of the statement by tying it to the customer’s goals. We know the Air Force’s current view of renewable energy is focused more on security, rather than potential savings. By clearly linking to the customer’s goals, the revised statement makes it for the evaluator to determine why the data matters. Here, the evaluator has customer benefits to take away: the proposed design reduces energy needs and helps the Air Force meet energy security goals.

Remember: “Show not tell.”

Prove to the government that your sustainable solution is the best value. Provide performance details. Include energy models and lighting models. Without data, the claims are just empty words.

“The proposed system is highly efficient.”


“The highly efficient (94 percent) HVAC system featuring variable air volume system, variable frequency drives, dedicated outdoor air systems, energy recovery wheel, optimized chiller, occupancy sensors, and direct digital controls will provide for 65 percent more energy efficiency than the current system.”

Help evaluators easily visualize what you are trying to convey.

When providing technical engineering data, think about the best way to communicate the information. A chart or table can help evaluators determine the important aspects of your proposed solution as well as compare benefits. For example, include an energy model table with baseline or standard design values compared to your proposed system design.

Write for a variety of audiences.

Your company’s energy specialist is often from an engineering background. While engineers tend to focus on features and specifications and making sure that the system meets the requirements, it is important to translate complex terms into language that is informational yet compelling to the average reader.

Include testimonials from other customers.

Substantiate your claims with further evidence, incorporate quotes from previous clients that have used your offering and witnessed results.

Highlight your team’s strengths.

Describe how your team’s experience and past performance enhance the proposed solution. Perhaps you have successfully provided similar solutions on a similar building type where the results being offered were proven effective.

Win with solutions that are aligned with the customer’s needs and presented in a compelling manner.

Incorporating strategies for sustainability and energy into your proposal is not so different from your other proposal approaches, but you have to make sure your proposal’s value proposition is clearly aligned with your customer’s needs and is presented in a manner that gives your customer confidence in your solution. The customer must be able to identify differentiators between your proposal and those of competitors. By keeping the client in mind as you select your sustainable strategies, while clearly quantifying the benefits, you can provide a win to the government and to your team.

Sarah Weaver, M.SAME, is President, Strategic Creations;

[Article originally published on TME Online in 2017.]