Your proposal is the first touch point for the customer to evaluate the quality of outputs you are capable of delivering. By submitting a sloppily written proposal, you are exposing yourself to the risk of losing the business because the prospective customer will have a chance to judge your quality of work. You, therefore, need the necessary tools, skills, pragmatic approach, and motivation to present your solution in the best light possible. You should put yourself into the customer’s shoes and think about the requirements from their perspective. The customer weighs your proposal against the competition on the basis of value addition and differentiators, especially when there is no significant difference in prices.
The following are the four most critical activities that you need to perform on a continued basis to make your proposal development process stronger and better.
Customer Analysis: it is imperative that our proposal be compliant and responsive in order to win the bid. We follow RFP guidelines and meet the requirements stated in the RFP to prepare a complaint proposal. Whereas, to make your proposal responsive, you need to read between the lines and identify the unstated needs, customer goals, and other underlying concerns. Generally, customers do not specify these needs explicitly in RFPs. The best way to identify these requirements is to conduct in-depth research on your client and gather all the valuable information you need to develop a winning proposal. Talk to your customer, foster and develop a relationship. Understand their vision, mission, and values, and mirror them in your proposition. Accentuate this alignment in the executive summary and throughout the proposal to demonstrate your understanding of their challenges and concerns. Knowing your prospective customers well not only helps you to formulate a compelling proposal but also helps you to arrive at the best price to win. Find out all the relevant information about the customer early in the bid process.
To better understand your customer’s hot buttons, you need to know their strategic goals, values, products, services, community involvement, sustainability initiatives, geographical presence, financial performance, competitors, investments, and so forth. The information on your customer’s overall existence is crucial for crafting a customer-centric proposal. Moreover, you must emphasize the value additions that you will bring to customer’s business if you are successful in winning the bid.
Competitive Intelligence: The research on your competitors should not be seen as a one-time activity; rather, it should be considered as an eternal process. Make certain that you identify and analyze your competitors’ best practices, methods, strategies, capabilities and solutions. In sharing the floor with your competitors during industry events, conferences, pre-bid/Q&A meetings, and all other possible avenues, you can get a good sense of your competitions’ capabilities, credentials, approach, etc. The members of your team who attend such events should pay close attention to what your competitors are saying during the presentations and discussions. The information gathered should be dissected back on the discussion table. Furthermore, the insights generated must be documented for future reference. Aside from the internal close-out session that we conduct at the end of each bid, the core proposal and sales teams must be regularly connected to discuss the competitive landscape, even if there is no formal RFP to steer the discussion.
Content Management: As the days of ‘customer is king’ have passed, now content reigns supreme. In all sectors ‘content is the king’. If you have information about people, you can convert them into your customers. Content drives success in the digital era. Having the right content at the right time and place is critical in proposal development. Content accessibility and availability determine how quickly your proposal will be completed. An efficiently structured content repository with quick search, filter and sort features will make your job more relaxing.
The content in the system must be reviewed and updated from time to time. Be sure to include the latest credentials, case studies, proof points, thought leadership, and testimonials in your proposal. Perhaps, a proposal that includes details of a project that you delivered a decade ago makes no sense for the new opportunity that you are bidding for. Many things like technology, processes, legal and regulatory requirements may have changed or become obsolete since then. So, keeping your proposal content repository up to date is crucial in creating winning proposals.
Knowledge Management: Writing a compelling proposal needs exhaustive research, knowledge of the industry, an understanding of leading practices, and effective storytelling. A great deal of time and effort has been put into the proposal development by everyone involved. Therefore, this is indeed a significant business investment for the organization. Every investment expects a return. The ultimate expected return here is winning the bid. Unfortunately, we sometimes fail to achieve the desired outcome. However, in either scenario, win or lose, we have earned something invaluable. What is that? Knowledge. The knowledge you gathered throughout the proposal development stages must be stored, distributed, and effectively used. Use the knowledge again and don’t let it rest. Often, there are questions in the RFP for which you might not have a ready-to-use answer and you create one from scratch with the help of a Subject Matter Expert. The next time you are asked the same question, you can leverage the answer from the previous proposal to a greater extent rather than reinventing the wheel. Moreover, what happens if one of the subject experts leaves the organization? They will take their knowledge with them. Consequently, there will be a knowledge gap that could jeopardize your proposal creation and ultimately the business. So make sure that you have a powerful knowledge management system in place and that you are capturing, organizing, storing, and using this knowledge to produce quality proposals.
Navas Kilikkottu is a Senior Proposal writer and Bid coordinator. He has more than seven years of experience in a variety of fields including proposal writing, bid management, requirement analysis, market research, proposal designing and business development. He has experience in working with IT and Professional Services sectors. Connect with him on LinkedIn
Join the Conversation