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Complex Proposals: Work Smarter, Not Harder

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Amo Chauhan



6 min

Your proposal team may be small, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t trying to tackle really complex bids, with few people. To compete against larger teams that have a lot more resources, you can’t rely on just working harder.

If you’re a proposal manager on a team of one to five people, then you know what it's like. It’s ten o’clock at night, and you’re reformatting a proposal due the next morning. As soon as you finish this proposal, you have to dive right into the next one that sales has stacked up for you.

But you’re a small business, so your proposals can’t be that complex, right? That’s a misconception you run into a lot.

Smaller proposals or sales quotes can be just as complex as larger, multi-volume proposals. There may be fewer pages, tables, or charts, but there are still complex requirements and regulations to comply with.

How can you get your proposals done in a way that competes with bigger businesses and teams?

You have to work smarter, not harder. So how do you do that? Here are three strategies for establishing a sustainable way to collaborate and submit more winning bids.

Choose Growth

Many small proposal teams are capable of running six or seven proposals all at once, in-parallel. How are they able to manage this? Do they work longer and harder hours than you?

No, their productivity level does not stem from working harder and longer hours. Instead, they have chosen the first key component of working smarter as a proposal team. 


If you, too, want to run more proposals in-parallel and get more winning bids out the door, you need to choose growth. In practice, what does choosing growth mean for your proposal team?

First of all, it means breaking free of the status quo in your proposal process. Trying to develop more proposals simultaneously using the same methods as always will require you to work twice as hard, and twice as long. That’s not scalable. That’s choosing burnout. 

Second, choosing growth means having a proposal tool in place that allows you to have instant access to reliable, up-to-date content. Content you can grab and use without having to worry about its accuracy, so you can focus on tailoring it for the prospect’s needs. 

With a complete proposal-building toolkit that guides the writers and reviewers through the process, you can hand-off the development  and, essentially, “teach them to fish”. 

By doing this, you ensure that your team is well-equipped to handle multiple proposals at the same time, while still delivering high-quality work – and avoiding the pitfalls of burnout.

Focus on the Customer 

Large proposal teams, developing large, complex bids, have an ace in the hold, a capture manager. They provide the strategy details and leadership needed to prepare winning bids.

With smaller proposal teams, you don’t have this luxury. Instead, you’re searching for relevant content to tailor. Or scrambling to recreate the content wheel on a blank page every time.  

In the whirlwind of piecing together the necessary information, people, and approvals, you’re busy hunting down emails and sifting through paper. You’re busy going back and forth, fixing content and document and formatting issues. You're so focused on how to deliver, instead of how to win, that you've lost sight of the most crucial aspect of your proposal. Customer focus. It's all too often sacrificed on the altar of busyness.

When your focus is hijacked by the gravity of manual proposal organization, coordination, and communication, you can easily lose sight of the most important thing to remember about writing a proposal: It's all about them – the prospective customer – not about you.

Why should they buy from you? Why should they trust your products or services to solve their problems?

How much more effectively could you communicate your value if you didn’t have to constantly do the splits between content formatting and content quality as you rush toward the deadline?

Personalization is key to winning – When you remove the manual aspect of your process, you save time to focus on personalizing your proposal for maximum impact. By personalizing your offer, selling your value, and delivering an on-brand proposal you immediately set yourself apart from your competition.

An on-brand proposal grabs attention – When you empower your team with relevant content, your content is already positioned to deliver on-brand and on message. To make it perfect for each specific client, all you have to do is hone it. When you eliminate time-consuming reformatting from your process, your proposal is always review-ready, and you eliminate the last-minute deadline sprint that steals your focus and time. 

Change the Game

The way buyers view quotes has changed. In today's highly competitive marketplace, constantly improving your customer's buying experience and making it as easy as possible for them is more important than ever.

The global business environment is going mobile first. Increasingly, buyers view proposals on their mobile devices. To reach them, you need to adapt your methods. The goal should not just be to turn around proposals faster than the competition, but to get them in front of your customers on their preferred platforms as early as possible.

What can you do to engage mobile-first buyers with your quotes? Isn't that something that only companies with IT resources out of your league can accomplish?

The good news is, no. You can do it just as easily as deep-pocket companies can, without the IT or budget normally reserved for large, strategic deals.

How? By translating your proposal content into an engaging, on-brand mini-website – so you can meet your buyers where they are. Online or on their smartphones. 

Unlike static PDF quotes where you email your prospects, web quotes offer a fast and game-changing way to stand out from the “big-boy” competitors. They keep the conversation flowing and accelerate it with their interactive experience. 

By meeting your prospects' expectations with a web proposal, you change the engagement game. As they say, content is king, but engagement is queen. 

Choose the Smarter Way to Create Complex Proposals

“The riskiest thing we can do is just maintain the status quo.” Those are the words of Disney CEO Bob Iger. They ring true in a fast-moving business environment that is getting ever more competitive. 

If you stick to your existing methods as a proposal team and at the same time expect to grow, you’re setting yourself up to work even longer hours, even later into the night… and ultimately into the ground. 

You have to face the fact that, by sticking to the status quo, you're not producing on a scale that makes you a real contender against "the big boys”. Making more money is the only way to get more people on your team. And the only way you can make more money is to produce and submit more winning proposals.

The question is, how can you do that with the same staff?

Consider an approach that allows you to choose growth, focus on your customer, and change the game in your favor. Now you’re working smarter, and not harder. 

That's how you can produce more without sacrificing quality. And that's how you can win more business without sacrificing your work-life balance.


Related article: What is XaitProposal, and how does it help you win more business?


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Amo Chauhan

Amo has a degree in Applied Chemistry, and 20 years sales experience working in media, adtech and data insight solutions. He enjoys spending time with his children, watching his son play cricket, and cooking with his daughter. He is passionate about powerlifting and most mornings you can find him in a gym lifting heavy weights.

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