This is Part 2 of a two-part blog post written based on a presentation I have given frequently, most recently as a webinar (available for viewing here). It outlines proposal best practices and the things organization should be doing to improve their capture methods. My years in the industry have led me to witness some very bad habits that occur all too often but are easily correctable. Part 1 includes points 1 – 4 and is available here.
5. Manage Executive Involvement
The pattern I tend to see in organizations is that executives are not involved until the end of the process, when they become heavily invested in the proposal and thus create more risk. When they are involved late in the game, they are more likely to want to change volumes, win themes, and graphics - the things that are incredibly time consuming to change and could lead to missing the deadline, or delivering a proposal that is not agreed upon by both the proposal manager/coordinator and the executives. Your success is predicated on managing your executives during an opportunity. Get them involved early. By the time you've made it to the final draft, management involvement should decline. This lowers the risk of having to make major changes as the deadline approaches. If the capture and proposal managers are on track and report to management regularly, they shouldn’t feel the need to get involved as often.
6. Know How to Triage
Once the final RFP is released, all of your efforts leading up to that point are going to need to be re-evaluated to make sure that your strategy, win themes, outline, content plans and graphics are aligned with the final requirements. Before anyone starts writing, your team needs to sit down and decide if your win themes and strategies are still applicable, if there is anything new that will change the structure of the proposal, and whether or not you need to find new graphics. Assess everything you have done so far and compare it to the new RFP in case there are any changes; this decreases the likelihood that any member of your team will waste time on non-compliant work.
7. Graphics, Graphics, Graphics!
After the win themes, graphics are the most important component in scoring. Proposals are scored more than they are read. Agencies will perform an initial review of the proposal for compliance before they read the sections in detail, and the first thing they notice is graphics and the captions that go along with them. A study by the University of Minnesota found that the human brain can register and understand a graphic up to 60,000 times faster than written words. Graphics will greatly increase your chance of getting your message across the first time an agency views your proposal.
There should be at least one graphic per page, if not more. There are so many options for graphics as well, including charts, photos, computer-generated images, and infographics. Infographics are especially helpful because they combine images with facts in a way that is aesthetically pleasing and informative (hence the term, info-graphic). It's important to have a large repository of graphics also; it's likely you will recycle them for different proposals so it helps to keep them in one place.
8. Manage Color Team Reviewers
External reviewers can be tremendously helpful but they rarely read the requirements. Reviewers with past agency experience can be especially difficult to work with, since they believe they already know what the customer wants even if their opinion differentiates from what is in the requirements. They tend to forget that the requirements are there for a reason. The best thing you can do is be anal about proactively preparing your color team. There's no such thing as too much preparation. Here is the process that I have found is the most successful:
Every color team needs to have a full understanding of an opportunity in order to be effective reviewers. Keep track of the reviewers you use; build a past performance for your teams so you know ahead of time who reads the requirements, who is helpful, who is ineffective, etc. Having individual past performances will help you put together great teams for the future. When you actually have your team together, make sure the reviewers stay in their own swim lanes. Reviewers may have a tendency to try to review other volumes they are not assigned to because they have the experience; make sure your proposal manager reminds them that they were chosen to review certain volumes for a reason.
Also remember to treat pricing as its own review; do not try to run it at the same time you do volume reviews. Find different reviewers to do your pricing, specifically people who are qualified to do it.
These 8 proposal best practices may seem obvious but I can't tell you how often I see organizations not follow them and fail to get a win. Whether your company is big or small, the best thing you can do to ensure success is discover what works and what doesn't, create a repeatable process, and stick with it. For more information on the capture process you can watch my webinar version of the presentation here. Reach out to us via email or through our various social media outlets if you have further questions (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook)