It’s quite common in smaller businesses for salespeople and account managers to take care of their own proposals, with not much in the way of centralised oversight.
It often seems like the quickest and easiest way to get things done – but there are potentially some serious drawbacks. For one thing there’s no bid library to make the process quicker and more consistent. And there’s no process for checking the quality of proposals before they go.
No surprise that businesses like this usually waste a lot of energy on unsuccessful bids.
Centralised control is almost guaranteed to increase your win rate.
Central control can also save you the embarrassment of a client seeing proposals from the same company that bear hardly any resemblance to each other, simply because they were prepared by different people… hardly professional!
Once the director responsible for sales takes responsibility for the whole process, here are some of the benefits you can expect:
Your company’s proposal content keeps getting better and more focused.
Salespeople can produce proposals more quickly.
Key messages are consistent and consistently well expressed.
You can engage with customers earlier in the sales funnel by producing more proactive proposals (proposals are increasingly used as a sales tool).
You have more time to research clients’ specific needs because you’re not slogging writing every proposal from scratch.
Central Control Objectives
A centralised process for controlling the content and quality of submissions avoids duplication and errors such as enclosing outdated documents or content. Each proposal should be incrementally better than the last and centralised production and control gives you something to build on continuously.
2. Tracking Your Success Rate
When everyone does their own thing you’ll probably never know what sort of success rate you have. With central control you can track the win rate across the business and get greater insights into the bids you typically win or lose.
3. Content Re-use
A centralised library makes your story consistent and eliminates duplicated effort. You can respond to opportunities quicker and more effectively. As an aside there are a few potential drawbacks that you need to guard against and we’ll discuss these in a forthcoming article.
4. Improved Accuracy and Completeness
A validation process ensures that nobody is cutting corners or missing out crucial information. The library of standard content ensures that energy goes into the unique aspects of each bid.
What you need to do
Improve content management. Investigate using tools like Google Drive so that everyone has access to the latest versions of all documents and standard texts.
Introduce processes and methodologies that can be applied consistently within the culture and constraints of your organisation.
Make somebody the final arbiter for all outgoing proposals and bids.
Define roles.There are various roles in the bid world – Bid Director, Bid Manager, Account Manager, Bid Writer, Bid Co-ordinator. In a large organisation these are full time jobs. In a small, sales oriented SME the Bid Director role might be taken by the MD or sales director. The other roles will be part time for people who have other responsibilities. They will inevitably be pulled in different directions but you can work on it until there is sufficient work for full time employees, possibly starting with the bid co-ordinator.
Benefits for the Sales Process
With more control you can achieve earlier client engagement and a more proactive approach. Proposals will be a presentation of the complete solution, not simply a quotation. And your formal bids will emphasise how your USPs differentiate you from competitors so that every tender has the potential to make you the preferred bidder.
Need help? I’ve helped many SMEs establish processes to make proposal production more efficient and successful. Give me a call and I’ll be happy to help you get on track.
Ian Smith, Winning Tenders