In our first article of this series we discussed the importance of making your bid or proposal more personalized to make it effective. So having created something that is truly unique and client focused we now need to look at how else we can ensure a winning submission.
Cornerstone number 2 – Make it collaborative
It’s amazing how many people we come across who try to avoid going back to documents they’ve sent out, for fear of spotting the errors and issues that made it into the final submission. They bury their heads in the sand, accepting that these lapses are unfortunate but part of the life of someone who creates sales documents. This is a very understandable reaction, but the reality is that rather than avoiding this pain, they should be looking to their process and tools to find ways to ensure higher quality, fewer errors and more confidence in their output.
The fact is that writing a detailed and customer-focused document can be a big and daunting task, and it is one that should never be undertaken alone. No matter how good your writing skills, you will make mistakes, and due to the frailties of our brains, you will probably find it hard to spot where you’ve gone wrong.
Bringing people into the process will improve the output, but only if it is done in a controlled way. But there is more to be gained than just avoiding errors. Collaborating with others on a document can bring new levels of energy, fresh ideas, fresh perspectives and key checks and balances.
However, it also brings new levels of complexity, the pain of version control, the frustrations of maintaining timelines and momentum, and the even bigger pain of managing and agreeing changes.
Over the last 8 years of working with businesses on their most important bids and proposal documents we’ve seen countless methodologies and technologies employed to try and manage the process, so have a pretty deep pool of ideas to call upon to help people make it work. It is definitely an area where well-deployed technology can help you – but you must tread carefully.
A good number of our customers have run the traditional mix of Email, Word and Excel to help progress the timeline, chase for content and discuss thoughts and ideas as a document comes together. But with three tools, multiple iterations flying around and no centralised view for all, it is easy to see how this leads to errors and problems, even with the most organised bid managers at the helm. If you’ve ever suffered the pain of having someone review and approve content only for the author to send you through another iteration that they’ve ‘improved’ on a whim, you’ll know what we mean.
Using a tool such as XaitPorter to bring together the authors, the document, the comments, reviews and timeline management into one place really is an ideal way to bring this array of issues under control. By eliminating multiple versions attached to emails, giving all in the team visibility of progress, and cutting out Microsoft Word (and the nightmares this brings of different versions saved to individual hard drives!) in favour of everything in one place you will be able to bring a new calm to the process.
The elimination of problems really is the gift that keeps on giving. By collaborating in one place you will make the team more efficient, which gives them time to write better material. You will eliminate mistakes, which improves the perception of your document. And you can incorporate more ideas, which improves the quality of the submission.
So a more controlled and more collaborative approach, underpinned by the right tool will give you a new found confidence in what you submit. This allows you to go back to old material with a focus on what you can pull forward for the benefit of future documents, rather than avoiding it for fear of what horrors you may find lurking there.
About the Author
Steve Robinson is the Managing Director of sales document specialists Sales Engine. After years of sales and sales management in the IT industry, Steve honed his skills as a Director of a sales training company before embracing his passion for helping people create amazing bid and proposal documents by founding Sales Engine in 2008.