Develop high-impact proposals by making this mindset switch

The Proposal Support Function (PSF) is critical to the overall selling process. Yet, all too often the PSF is viewed and treated as an administrative function instead of a strategic partner. This is a common organizational misconception, one that inhibits the creation of high-impact proposals.

Recently we were fortunate to have B.J. Lownie—the Founder, Managing Director, and Principal Consultant of Strategic Proposals—as our guest presenter for a webinar called “The Proposal Support Function: From Stepchild to Strategic Partner.” Over the last 30 years, B.J. has trained thousands of proposal professionals. He has helped them to be viewed by their respective companies as professionals and as critical to capturing business.

If you missed this webinar, have no fear…the entire on-demand webinar is available on YouTube. Because this educational hour was jam-packed with so many great insights, today we’re sharing a few highlights right here on our blog.

Excited to learn some tips and techniques that will help your Proposal Support Function (PSF) succeed? Enjoy some of the most profound moments from our recent webinar with B.J.Lownie.

“Aim high, rather than aim for mediocrity.” – B.J. Lownie

Demonstrating your strategic value in the PSF

Proposals are a team operation and collaboration is a necessary part of your process. A typical proposal management team includes sales, Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), and the Proposal Support Function (PSF).

The PSF has five main areas:

  1. Business / Strategy
  2. Planning / Management
  3. Content Development
  4. Document Management / Production
  5. Knowledge Base Administration / Support

Often we see people in PSF roles working 12-14 hours, including nights and weekends, to manage these areas and submit proposals before the deadline. To change that trajectory requires a change in mindset, both from the PSF but also from sales, SMEs, and management.

Empowerment comes from within—it’s up to you to improve your role and demonstrate your strategic value to the organization.

That means making sure you have the resources you need to succeed with your proposals, even if you need to fight for them. It means finding technology that supports your process, even if you need to fight for budget. It also means knowing best practices for developing high-quality proposals inside and out.

“Without the foundation, the proposal falls apart.” – B.J. Lownie  

Best practices for developing high-quality proposals

The foundation is everything. Besides following requirements and crafting the best possible content, that also includes knowing why you’re creating the proposal in the first place. Most PSF team members would answer that the reason they work so hard to submit proposals is to win.

A poor quality proposal can cause a loss of an opportunity. It’s up to the PSF to do everything in their power not to lose an opportunity. To increase the chances of success with your proposals:

  • Adhere to instructions
  • Address all requirements
  • Answer all the questions
  • Provide the best possible responses
  • Provide the necessary evidence
  • Receive the highest score possible

And, what is “success?” Anytime your team is working on a proposal, it’s important to understand what that definition of success is.

It’s also a good idea to make sure the pursuit is worth the time, resources, and energy. Is there a relationship already with the prospect? Or, is this proposal a shot in the dark? The PSF and sales should align their efforts.

When developing responses, here are several top-down best practices to follow:

  • Carefully consider the question being asked (What does the customer really want?)
  • Determine the customer’s wish list answer
  • Determine the best possible answer you can provide
  • Draw from a knowledge base
  • Add appropriate supporting information
  • Review response (Sales, SME, PSF)

If we look at your proposal content as food, think about what your customer wants to eat and how you can serve them the best possible meal. You can serve them “leftovers” from your knowledge base or you can prepare a fresh meal with the right ingredients. It’s up to you.

  “Don’t just get something out the door. Get something out the door that’s compelling.” – B.J. Lownie

Think ahead to produce high-impact proposals

A key piece of the PSF is the facilitation of the strategy and key messages. The Proposal Support Function never owns the strategy, since that is owned by sales. The PSF completely owns the facilitation…and being proactive is paramount.

Herein lies the problem. This is a typical timeline for proposals that you and your team are likely very familiar with.

rushed proposal process

Source: Strategic Proposals Webinar

Rushing the proposal out the door means you don’t produce your best work. It leads to a bad habit of M.S.U. (Make Stuff Up), which is obviously not the right process for developing high-impact proposals. If you can’t get information from your SME before the deadline, then you are technically an enabler of an inefficient process too.

Rather than filling in the blanks with an M.S.U. approach, think ahead and work with your team. Get started on the proposal as early as possible and make sure your resources are lined up already. When you’re proactive, this is what your proposal timeline looks like…

proposal timeline

Source: Strategic Proposals Webinar

If you think ahead, you start producing high-impact proposals. You have more time for quality control to ensure accuracy, clarity, relevancy, and professionalism. This is the number one area of responsibility for the PSF. Now you just need technology to empower you even further.

How RFPIO empowers the proposal support function

The facilitation of the strategy and key messages belongs to the PSF—and a response management platform like RFPIO serves a very similar role. RFPIO is really a support function to the proposal support function. The Content Library is the knowledge base for the entire organization, a content hub that can be used for proposals or any type of business query.

RFPIO gives you a way to access your highest quality content in one place. This saves you time as you don’t need to hunt through various documents, emails, and folders. You don’t stumble into the M.S.U. (Make Stuff Up) trap, because you have up-to-date, approved content ready to go in a searchable Content Library.

Assembling your team is much easier as you can assign specific questions and sections, then track progress along the way. Collaboration is easier with SMEs and sales anytime you do need clarification, with the ability to message directly inside the platform or through Slack.

Overall, RFPIO allows you to be more proactive, develop high-impact proposals, and improve your chances of winning the business opportunity. By having this advanced technology at your fingertips, you can feel more confident in your role. You can also say goodbye to being seen as the “stepchild,” and establish yourself as a strategic partner in the proposal management process.

Prepared to make the mindset switch? Request a demo of RFPIO to take the next step.

Andrew Stone

As the Senior Channel and Alliances Manager at RFPIO, Andrew Stone is committed to helping RFPIO partners achieve their goals. Previously, Andrew worked with several marketing agencies to provide marketing strategy focused on elevating brand value, from non-profits to Fortune 500 Companies. Connect with Andrew on LinkedIn.

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