Can the best proposal in the world win a sale on its own? Honestly, probably not. Proposals are just one element of a lengthy and involved sales process.
Flip the question on its head and ask, “Can a poor proposal torpedo a sale on its own?” Absolutely. As can a bad demo, negative reference, or a disagreeable price.
My point is that while the proposal cannot win you the sale on its own, it still plays a pivotal role. Whether it’s reactive (RFP, RFI, Security Questionnaire, etc.) or proactive (sales-generated to show product solution or value), a proposal’s job is to advance the sale. How do you propel something forward? Build an engine.
Build your revenue-driving proposal engine
A revenue-generating response engine can change how your organization feels about proposals, turning it from a necessary evil to a strategic advantage in the sales lifecycle. I’ve broken the engine down into four key components, the first of which is people. Based on my experience, with respect to the way proposals are handled, organizations fall into one of these categories :
- Ad hoc: 20% of organizations have no dedicated proposal team, instead relying on sales to take it on. This is a reactive approach that typically produces low-quality proposals and poor win rates.
- Tactical: By far the most common, 60% of organizations have a proposal support team. It’s more efficient than an Ad-hoc approach, but still reactive, not highly prioritized in the organizational structure, and results in a win rate that makes stakeholders hem and haw over whether it’s all worthwhile every year.
- Strategic: This dedicated proposal function with defined processes and staffed by capture planning specialists, bid and proposal managers, proposal writers, and content managers—in place at only 20% of organizations—produces the highest quality proposals that result in the highest win rates.
People need processes—the second engine component—to optimize their efficiency, enable visibility, and forecast accurately. A well-documented process will help with qualifying opportunities, deciding on win themes, building the response team, assigning roles, tracking and reviewing proposals, assembling the final proposals for publishing, etc.
The third engine component is no surprise: content. Obviously, you need to illustrate how your product or solution solves the problem that has necessitated the response. The differentiator here is in content quality, access, re-use, and personalization.
All three of the components mentioned above will be highly influenced by the fourth engine component: the technology tools you invest in for your response management engine. These will include your CRM, collaboration and web conferencing tools, and, of course, proposal software solutions.
When the engine is firing on all cylinders
After you build the engine, you can expect improvements in the following:
This refers to whether you have a streamlined process that you can apply any time a response is required. Once you’ve established your process, it can be triggered by intaking a project in your proposal software or CRM.
Whether or not your process is easily repeatable depends on content. Do you define service level agreements that can be adhered to time and again? Are you capitalizing on the wealth of information that already exists in your proposal software’s Content Library? If you’re finding ways to reuse existing content, you’re already well on your way to repeatability.
Gain macro clarity of your proposal team’s performance. Are there any patterns where win rates vary? This will help identify key characteristics of your most winnable deals. Which content is most popular? Most effective?
This will help identify where to invest subject matter expert (SME) time in content development.
Make everything easier and faster—from finding content and assembling documents, to working with collaborators. Teams that do so are often able to increase efficiency by 40%. Sometimes it’s even more.
There’s no question that proposal software saves time, no matter how many people you have responding to proposals. Friend and peer BJ Lownie, managing director and principal consultant at Strategic Proposals believes that, “Situations exist for one-man shows and full-blown proposal departments.” Having proposal software on hand will help produce higher quality proposals faster, filled with brand-approved content and output according to your style guides.
Give everyone back time to reinvest in improving the quality of their work. Salespeople can spend more time on revenue-generating operations. The proposal team can spend more time on creating high-quality responses. SMEs can focus their efforts on their primary job functions and other equally important operational activities.
The purchasing decision is a consensus activity these days. Emotional and political factors are also at play. On balance, you always want to put your best foot forward. Proposal quality matters. It can positively influence deals.
Link 1-4 together and you discover that proposal software fuels your revenue-generating response engine!
Ultimately, you want your revenue-generating response engine to guide your organization to the point where you’re only responding to winnable deals. Data output from the engine will help you answer questions like:
- What is your relationship to the organization you’re responding to?
- Have you had any prior engagement with that organization?
- Do you have any insight into why that organization is soliciting responses?
Time is finite in the response world. The response due date is a deadline not a guideline. To paraphrase a quote I recently read on LinkedIn, proposals are never done; they’re just due. This engine will help you be more discerning with how, when, and where you invest your time and energy.
Proven value of proposal software
At RFPIO, our mission is to provide technology that streamlines the proposal process. No question that a library of pre-written content is a backbone to increased productivity. As are collaborations with sales and SMEs. We want to reduce the friction of hunting for content and herding SME cats. With proposal software, RFPIO customers are able to:
- Submit 25% more responses with 100% accuracy while staffing is down 50%.
- Increase win rate by finding more time to craft compelling win messages.
- Triple proposal capacity and create efficiencies across all teams.
We deliver time back. How would you like a week back in your typical three-week proposal
process? How that time is reinvested will determine your win rate success. With a response team firing on all automated cylinders, you can unleash proposal development best practices while protecting sales and SMEs from the inefficiency rampage of a frenzied response process.
Start building your revenue-generating response engine by scheduling a demo to see how much time you can free up to reinvest.