Stop The Insanity! 7 Tips For Choosing Proposal Software

 

Stop the Proposal Insanity!

You‘ve answered the same RFP questions over and over again.  You know you’ve written a paragraph in a previous proposal and it’s somewhere in your computer.  Where is it?  It’s becoming clear that you need to systematize some part of your proposal process otherwise you’ll go insane.  Congratulations! You’ve experienced enough pain and you’re now ready to choose proposal software platform to help you fix your proposal insanity (trust me, I’m laughing with you).  Before you choose your proposal software, I have a few tips for you…

  1. Don’t implement a system in the middle your busiest time of the year for proposals.  You may think you’ll increase productivity if you can automate the process as quickly as possible, but you won’t.  When you decide to change the way you respond to RFQs or RFPs, there is a very steep learning curve. The first few times you use the new software, it can take you double the amount of time it usually does to assemble a proposal.
  2. Analyze the types of clients you serve.  Consider the client types of the RFQs and RFPs you typically respond to.  There are some great tools out there for responding to private companies and as well as some excellent tools to use when responding to government, municipalities, or other public clients.  Picking the right type of software that was designed to work according to your client’s specifications can make a huge difference in your overall productivity.
  3. Think about the deliverables your clients typically want.  Do you do more print proposals or electronic submittals?  Some software solutions are better for purely digital deliverables while others work much better for paper submittals.
  4. Consider software systems your industry currently uses.  I know when I was in the healthcare IT space, PMAPS was a popular system, while in the architectural, engineering, and construction (A/E/C) industries Deltek Vision is the standard for larger firms, but Cosential is the perfect choice for smaller or medium sized firms based on the price point.  If you use the right proposal platform for your industry, it will be easier to find staff who know how to use it and this will lessen learning curve.  Recently I’ve come across RFP365 which has some great functionality for both procuring and bidding.
  5. Think about how many people in your firm will be creating proposals or involved in the process.  If you’re a small firm but are planning to grow in the next year, the type of system you implement may be very different from the firm with 3 offices and 15 people working on proposals at the same time.
  6. Do you have other systems you may want to integrate your proposal system with?  In the A/E/C Industry, it’s beneficial for the marketing coordinator and/or marketing department to have access to financial data.  Thus, a system that can integrate with your existing financial system is incredibly useful to eliminate manual data entry.
  7. Cost.  You’ll notice I bring this up last.  If you really have no budget to implement a proposal system, then focus on staying more organized with your content so that when you do have a budget large enough to get the system you pick one that will stick with you as you grow.  Remember, with many of the software platforms out there, some configuration is usually required and that can cost you a few thousand dollars before the monthly or yearly subscription rate.

These tips cover the basics when it comes to choosing proposal software.  Of course, there are other things that you may need to consider based on your industry.  If you’d like help choosing your next proposal system, contact us!

How Small Businesses Can Increase Sales

When most professional service companies reach 7-10 employees mark and have been operating for at least 5 years, they usually start looking for ways to grow their sales pipeline. At this point, small businesses start looking for larger contracts in both the private and public sector.  Larger contracts in the private sector generally come with a different set of problems such as a longer sales cycle and more decision makers involved in the procurement phase.  Public sector pursuits usually involve a strategy of achieving necessary qualifications and certifications as well as continual submittals and a “paying dues” mentality.  No matter what type of project or contract your company pursues, your company needs to have a solid process in place when identifying and pursuing new work before you submit a proposal.

3 Tips for Increasing Sales

1.  Don’t chase everything.

Not every opportunity is worth pursuing.  Eliminating opportunities quickly that don’t meet your primary business objectives is a great way to help increase sales.  If you don’t have a solid go-no-go process in place, you may want to take the time to create one.

2.  Ask good questions.

With just a few questions, you can clarify if specific opportunities are worth your company’s time and resource investment.

  • Do you have a budget? – Many times you can eliminate if an opportunity is worth your time based on the budget.  Remember, there is always a cost to pursue any new opportunity, if the contract amount is too small, you’re actually losing money on the deal before you even win the contract.  Or, if a contract is twice the size of any project you have ever done, you may want to make sure you have appropriate resources on standby to staff the project appropriately.
  • Are you working with anyone else right now? – Sometimes, businesses like to price check by getting firms to respond to an RFP one of your competitors has helped create.  Make sure that you’re not wasting your time and efforts by helping your competitor gain more useful information on your business and pricing models.  By asking the question, you are at least attempting to protect yourself
  • Do you have a deadline? – This can help you determine where a company is in their sales cycle and help you appropriately plan your strategy in working with this client.
  • Who in your team is responsible for the final decision? – Make sure you know who ultimately has the final decision making power in the procurement process, you don’t want to submit a proposal only to find out that the person you’re submitting a proposal to doesn’t have the ultimate say in the process.

3.  Set SMART Goals.

Your sales pipeline goals don’t necessarily need to be revenue driven.  Setting goals to increase the number of leads you receive as well as increasing the channels you receive leads through, can be great tools to increase your sales pipeline.  Creating SMART goals are a great way to hold your team accountable as well.  Smart goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely.

Summary

Sometimes the best way to increase your sales is to consistently make smarter decisions on what you decide to chase and what you decide not to.  By following a solid go-no-go process, asking specific questions, and setting SMART goals, you are well on your way to growing your sales pipeline and your business.

How To Write A Great Executive Summary

Wait, don’t start writing it yet!  The first thing you should know about writing an executive summary, is not to start writing it until you have a solid understanding of what solution you are providing for your prospective client.  The purpose of an executive summary is to convince your prospective customer in 1-3 pages, that he or she needs to buy your solution, so it’s actually not a summary.  As Tom Sant says in his book, Persuasive Business Proposals, “The executive summary is the single most important part of your proposal.  Its’ the only part that’s likely to be read by everybody involved in making a decision.”

What should go in an executive summary?

1.  A summary of the problem.

What is the problem you are trying to solve for your client?  What is your client concerned about?  What is keeping them up at night?  The main pain point for your client must be woven into the narrative of the executive summary.

  • “We understand the challenges of creating and maintaining 50 independent websites…”
  • “Our first priority is to keep your students safe while we are constructing the new 250,000 SF facility..”
  • “After our initial analysis, we see that your company is losing approximately $2 million a year due to…”

2.  Your solution.

Present your solution as simple as possible and avoid jargon or acronyms unless these are commonly understood by your reader.

  • “Our solution will grow sales by more than 50%…”
  • “Our solution will offer you the flexibility you seek for a price that is 25% less than…”
  • “We can help your firm reduce waste by 25% by…”

3.  The benefits of your solution.

Help your potential client understand why your solution is better than your competitors.  Elaborate on 3-5 of the benefits your solution provides and present concise evidence on how each benefit eliminates a pain point for your customer.

4.  Ask for the sale.

It is important that your potential client knows how important this opportunity is to you and your company.  Depending on the type of client, you may want to interject an emotional appeal as to why you are passionate about your prospective client’s project.

In Summary

There are several schools of thought on how to write a great executive summary, but the best executive summaries usually start on a white board with your team outlining why your solution is the best for your potential client.  Write the executive summary first and then make sure the rest of your proposal and RFP response clearly articulates and demonstrates why your solution is the best fit for your client.

5 Reasons To Keep Responding To Government RFPs

As the economy begins to bounce back, many companies divert their attention from the steady work of the public sector and begin to look again towards the private sector.  Don’t stop submitting your RFPs! Although the private sector can offer a lot of great opportunities to win interesting new projects, one shouldn’t completely abandon their public sector RFP response efforts.

5 Reasons to Keep Responding To Government RFPs

  1. They’ll remember you bailed on them.  That’s right, if you give up on pursuing government work, your city, state, and county procurement specialists remember that you bailed.  Remember, the city, state, and county procurement offices want to establish long-term relationships with multiple vendors to ensure project work gets spread around.  If your company begins not submitting RFPs or not even responding with the appropriate “no-bid” form, the procurement office for that specific government entity will begin to think you’re no longer interested in maintaining a vendor relationship.
  2. Rebuilding a damaged relationship could take you a lot of time and will cost you money.  If you stop pursuing government projects when the economy improves, winning back a relationship may take more RFP responses before your company secures a win.
  3. Pursuing government work helps you solidify your sales process and messaging. Public sector RFPs are often very detailed and time intensive to appropriately respond.  This is a great opportunity for you to create better marketing assets for your company that speak directly to some of the questions your potential customers in the private sector may have.
  4. You’ll get great competitive intelligence.  Going to a pre-bid meeting gives you great insight as to who your competitors are as well as who your new competitors may be.  If you’re in the technology space, you know how quickly the competitive landscape can change.  The ability to access information about your competitors by what type of projects they’re pursuing is critical to you staying ahead of your competition.
  5. You’ll win work.  If you are diligent in your efforts in pursuing government work, you’ll win projects. It’s a process to become a partner with the government so make sure you continue to debrief each time you respond to an RFP so you learn how to improve on the next submittal.  Each RFP you respond to, makes it easier the next time around to submit.

Although it’s exciting to see the private sector begin to bounce back after the long recession, make sure you don’t abandon public work.  Diversifying your client base with public and private clients is a great way to create a consistent pipeline despite economic fluctuations.