Guiding a proposal from bid to win can often feel like playing a game of poker. The stakes are high, yet you can’t choose when the RFP will drop, or how much time you have to respond, or who you will bid against – that is all just the luck of the draw. You can, however, choose how you play your hand - and how you play your hand is how today’s proposals are won or lost.
How do you put the odds in your team’s favor? Let’s explore how to position your team for the win.
In the game of poker, stacking the deck, or locating specific cards and using an overhand shuffle to place them on the top of the deck, is against the rules. In the proposal game, however, stacking the deck is your goal.
For example, your opportunity assets, such as customer information and intelligence, have been located by your sales team. Yet, often times, a gap lies between sales and proposal teams which thwarts the placing of those assets where your proposal team can easily access them.
Your opportunity assets are critical to writing a winning proposal; they justify your bid decision, define your win strategy, and support your writing tactics. Using technology to automatically bridge this gap stacks the deck in your team’s favor. For example, you can skip the manual download and data entry and import opportunity information into your pipeline for instant access.
You can even skip the email and automatically notify your team when an opportunity is under consideration. As the bid and strategy discussion evolves, you can automatically capture and dynamically share updates with your CRM.
By bridging the gap, you automatically share the details your team needs to write to your win strategy. By bridging the gap, you’ll fly through reviews with comments focused on strengthening your proposal, not rewriting it.
The RFP has dropped, and winning proposal teams have two time-saving aces in the hole, two advantages that will influence the win in your favor. Your content library, complete with reusable answers and comprehensive overviews is your first ace in the hold. Combined with a dynamic search for filtering, sorting, and finding the right content, it's an obvious time-saver. What your team does next, when the content library falls short, is your second ace in the hole.
When the content is lacking or more than a canned answer is required, your team must collaborate on your proposal. With the growth of the distributed workforce, and with remote work on the rise, being able to collaborate online is now critical, no matter where or when your team works.
Online team collaboration, however, is different from email and document management communication. Where online team collaboration promotes a discussion from the center, email and document management communication comes at you from all sides. For example, instead of emailing an expert a list of questions and waiting for a response, you invite the expert to the online document to work with you. Together you discuss and come to consensus, leaving more time on the clock for tailoring the proposal to your specific prospect.
The same is true for proposal reviews. For example, with an online document, reviewers review and comment together and come to consensus in a single document. You will never, ever have to worry about overwriting content and version control or reviewers accidentally commenting on the wrong document version. That also means you skip the "merge" step, the whirlwind of emails and feedback and track changes - when the review is over, your team dives right back into writing.
Any poker player will tell you that 50% of the game is mental. Proposals are no different. In fact, the mental aspect of proposals is the most crucial part of the game because you need to know how to handle short term losses in order to stay focused until the end.
Take amendments, for example. A last minute date change or requirement clarification can easily throw the team off course, requiring massive calendar coordination and perhaps securing additional expert resources. This is where your joker, your wildcard, comes into play. When you draw the joker, you have the power to remain agile, to change the game in a way that favors your team.
For example, while other teams are tracking their proposal status manually, you have centralized time and task management. That means you have a real-time task status; you know who is working, when they are done, and if there is an issue. You can see how the amendment will impact the schedule and can update your team from a centralized calendar that is dynamically linked to their Outlook Calendar.
While the competition is still chasing down task status, making phone calls and sending emails, you and your team are calmly proposing on.
Establishing a standard process and gaining adoption for it is challenging, to say the least. But when your team clearly understands how your process’s sequence of events will play out, in other words where their pieces of the puzzle fit, they are more likely to step up, move quickly, and hit deadlines. Automating portions of your process will save you time and have you coming up trumps every time, even when things don’t go as planned. And in the proposal game Murphy’s Law is always a player.
To start with, you have several process workflows to choose from, depending on the type of bid. With the click of a button, you launch your process workflow and jump-start your proposal; automatically establishing your team’s online work environment, providing team and partner access, and notifying everyone the game is afoot.
Throughout your process, your automated workflow coordinates the flow of assigned tasks with automatic, and ad-hoc, notifications and alerts, keeping your team in sync and on track. For example, your workflow can automatically assign individuals to specific tasks, remind your team about a looming deadline, and forward a task for review from one person to the next. And because proposals don’t often go exactly as planned (another amendment?), you can always adjust your process workflow throughout your proposal effort to keep the work flowing.
Combine workflow with reporting, and you automatically know when a task is complete, when a milestone is at-risk, how your process performed, and how to better allocate resources for the next proposal.
As businesses revisit their sales goals, look ahead, and define the shape of this new business reality, they are also implying the odds, or positioning based on how they speculate their competition will play their hands. When the chips are down, teams who adopt time-saving capture and proposal management tools will raise the ante and better play the hand they're dealt.