Forest through the trees
Whether you’re responding to inbound request for proposal (RFP) or proactively pursuing new business, proposals are vital to an organisation’s success and growth. Effective RFP management is directly linked to winning new business and increasing profitably. However, organisations often fail to invest in the right resources to properly support proactive and reactive proposal management and execution. Its original definition – a packaged sales presentation – falls short of describing everything that is involved in the document and the impact it has on an organisation. Seeing the larger picture and viewing this critical function more strategically, is the fundamental step to pivot from 'necessary evil' to effective and efficient best practices.
What’s at stake
RFP management can take up a tremendous amount of time, energy, and effort as volume and complexity of RFPs has increased exponentially. Not making it to a final round translates to lost business, reduced revenue, and even running the risk of tarnishing brand reputation. Further, if not structured and with supporting technologies, businesses risk far greater issues that can impact revenues and growth opportunities. It can be a vicious cycle for companies struggling with proposal development and execution, one that can amount to millions of dollars in losses.
To avoid falling prey to this cycle, take inventory of resources and processes to begin identifying areas for improvement. Maintaining up-to-date and accurate content, clearly defined processes, collaboration workflows, and an approvals structure, all comprise successful RFP management.
A day in the life
RFP managers face a tremendous amount of pressure and work under tight deadlines. What’s more, they are often taken for granted. Just as proposal management is misunderstood, so too are the challenges inherent in the process. RFPs are growing in both volume and complexity, commonly composed of hundreds and sometimes thousands of questions, each requiring adherence to compliance standards that demand high levels of personalisation. RFP and proposal teams are tasked with balancing several initiatives simultaneously, translating to increasing pressures. When an organisation is lacking the right processes, structure, and technology, it can find itself in a truly chaotic state.
Above all, proposals must be persuasive and customer-centric. In order to win new business, prospects must feel their business goals are understood and specific pain points related to their industry are recognised. The buyer must also feel confident that the RFP respondent is helping them achieve these business goals while alleviating pain points. At the very least, proposals must be relevant, personalised, and strategic. Once this hurdle is passed, content must also be accurate, compliant, and of course, submitted by the deadline.
Technology to the rescue
As challenging and complex as the proposal process can seem, the good news is that technology can help save time and drive greater efficiencies. There are solutions available that can help teams create central repositories to organise and catalogue previously drafted proposals. RFP and Proposal automation software provides a high-quality content bank from which managers can pull responses, eliminating the need to reinvent the wheel with every request or proactive pitch.
A proposal should tell a compelling story and in doing so, demonstrate an understanding of the prospect’s desired business outcomes. Technology can help streamline execution, giving proposal teams the time to personalise content and speak to buyer value, removing the more administrative aspects such as formatting and fact checking. However, a sound technology is only half the battle; the other half is designing and implementing a strategy in which teams can operate as effectively and collaboratively as possible.
Going beyond 'The Necessary Evil'
So ask yourself this question - In the last 12 months, what was the value (win or lose) of all of the business influenced by proposals, both RFP responses and proactive sales proposals – that’s what is at risk.
When done right, the 'packaged sales presentation' directly correlates to increased topline growth. In that way, proposals transform from the 'necessary evil' into opportunities to grow and nurture a business. They are an outward extension of all that your organisation is capable of achieving. As teams look inward at procedures and take stock of supporting technology, a key to success is investing in strategies that can streamline RFP operations, create repeatable processes, alleviate common pain points, and improve overall proposal quality.