Proposals – More Than a Necessary Evil!

by: Doug Michaelides

For most B2B companies, proposals are essential to the selling process and involve significant effort.  The ability to generate winning proposals contributes to business growth.  More proposals, with higher win rates mean more revenue, right?  So it had better be a core competency of your business.

An effective proposal is more than just a price quotation.  It is a custom sales brochure that creates a compelling vision of the customer’s future should they choose your solution.  It describes not only your value proposition but the way you will deliver this value.  They say you can’t judge a book by its cover but customers will certainly judge you by the quality of your proposals!  If the client hasn’t worked with you before, they will use your proposal, and the interaction around it, as a proxy for what it will be like to work with you. 

Keep in mind that your proposals and associated customer interactions are part of your “product”!  This is especially true for professional services firms.  So to win more business, don’t just focus on the preparation OF the proposal; think about your preparations FOR the proposal. 

An effective proposal process includes:

  • Up front strategy sessions, based on customer interactions, that include making an explicit bid/no-bid decision
  • Standard templates and “boilerplate” for consistent communication of value propositions (multiple versions based on the type of proposal) along with training on how to use them
  • A clear, managed process for collecting inputs from different contributors within the organization
  • A final review (a “ready to release” decision, just as you would for any product)
  • Maintaining a repository of proposals as a source of valuable content, previous policy decisions and as a record of what was committed
  • A win-loss review (including getting customer feedback on your proposal)

Not all opportunities are created equal so apply the right weight of process based on the importance of each proposal.  But put genuine effort into all of them – if you don’t really want to win it, you shouldn’t bother bidding it.

Companies with better proposal processes win more business.  They generate proposals that more accurately meet customer requirements. They also continuously improve their effectiveness based on their experience.  Start implementing some of these steps with your next proposal.  Before you know it, your proposals will become a competitive advantage, not just a necessary evil!

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