Welcome to Proposal May-hem, our annual tradition of posting anything and everything proposal related in the month of May to coincide with our attendance of the annual APMP (Association of Proposal Management Professionals) Bid and Proposal Conference. Lets kick this thing off and coincidentally our first topic will be “How to Prepare for a Kick-Off Meeting”
So an RFP has dropped into your world and you know your team is going to respond and planning must begin as soon as possible. Many people’s first thought is great, lets have a kick -off meeting and get the ball rolling but is that the right thing to do? Put simply, No. A kick off meeting is far too often a disorganized hodgepodge of ideas, differing opinions and unclear objectives which many times then requires a second “kick-off” meeting to actually get down to business. In the proposal world that is a waste of time that just won’t be tolerated. Lets now discuss a few key tasks that must be accomplished BEFORE the kick-off meeting.
Number 1 – Make it personal.
“The quality of a proposal is indicative of a company’s desire for my business”
These were the words of a CEO when questioned about the importance of a proposal within the sales process, and perfectly sum up just how vital these documents are to a winning campaign.
So the question is; how often does a proposal or bid document leave your building that you can hand on heart say truly reflects just how determined you are to win the deal?
I’m sure most of us have seen a proposal, email or any number of business documents that are so filled with jargon that they have either lost their core purpose or are so convoluted that they become completely useless. Jargon is defined by dictionary.com as:
“Language that is characterized by uncommon or pretentious vocabulary and convoluted syntax and is often vague in meaning”
“Mad Men” Sales Process
I was thinking of starting this blog off by saying something prophetic like “the sales landscape is changing” but in all actuality, the sales landscape has already changed and is constantly changing. In the old days, the salesman was in an education role where he would tell his prospective buyer all about how great his product was and how badly the buyer needed it. He would educate the buyer not only on what the product was but just how useful and essential the product is to the buyer’s life. Customizing the buying experience was not an essential part of the sales process either, most times the buyer was the one who had to customize themselves to the product. If any of you have watched “Mad Men” you probably have some idea of what I’m talking about.
How can you alter the style and tone of your documents to ensure you are aligned with your objective? Before we get too deep, lets first talk about the difference between style and tone. Style, according to Wheaton College, can be defined as “the way in which something is written, as opposed to the meaning of what is written.” This would include the type of document you are writing, the typeface, the font size, the use of graphics, the spacing of the margins, etc etc etc. Tone on the other hand refers to the attitude of what is being written or the impression you are trying to convey to your audience.
This blog is all about setting down what you should be looking at when you are ready to pick a proposal software.
Before we set down the list, let’s go back to the basics real quick.
What is it you plan to achieve by your proposal?
Before you roll your eyes at the question, take a moment and think about it. The aim of a good proposal is to persuade the client, convince them that you are the person they are looking for. Out of the heaps and heaps of proposals on their desk, the evaluators must see yours as the one proposal that they want to put their money on. And that is worth every penny you invest in this tool.
So do you Google “the best proposal tool” and click the first one that answers your query? Well, we know it is a lot more than that. So here are some features that you should look out for when choosing a proposal tool:
Dr. Lynell Burmark, an associate at the Thornburg Center for Professional Development said, “…unless our words, concepts, ideas are hooked onto an image, they will go in one ear, sail through the brain, and go out the other ear. Words are processed by our short-term memory where we can only retain about 7 bits of information (plus or minus 2) … Images, on the other hand, go directly into long-term memory where they are indelibly etched.”
In a very interesting article entitled The Power of Visual Communication by Mike Parkinson, he brings to light that “according to a 3M-sponsored study at the University of Minnesota School of Management it was found that presenters who use visual aids are 43% more effective in persuading audience members to take a desired course of action than presenters who don’t use visuals.” So if the aim of graphics is persuasion, a proposal should be the first place to use graphics.
Cost and Price – it all boils down to this doesn’t it? How you price your services is a key factor in winning proposals. But just deciding on a price isn’t enough; the client needs to be convinced that the cost and price that you offer is justified. This entails a lot more than typing out a figure at the back of your proposal or adding an appendix. As in all things, presentation is key.
Let us keep in mind that there are instances when you do not need to and in some cases aren’t permitted to reveal your cost and pricing data. Talking about Government contracts, you can check out this blog which details some of those exceptions.
We will look at 5 things to keep in mind when presenting cost and price data.
“My fear now is of cliche, of complacency, of not being able to feel authenticity in myself and those around me.” – John Hawkes
At the cost of sounding clichéd (pun intended) here is an excerpt from a blog by Jayme Sokolow, the recipient of Fellows Award and a Vision Award from the Association of Proposal Management Professionals for his contributions to the proposal profession. We found this hilarious but completely true:
Best of breed
If you are not selling puppies, why claim that your solution is the “best of breed?” The phrase comes from the world of show dogs.