Time is money, there is not a single business leader who hasn’t said or heard this. This is further more true when it comes to writing proposals for large, strategic, multi-tower, multi-skilled RFPs. Responding to such RFPs is part of a complex sales process, common in enterprise sales, organizations desiring to grow bigger and wider has to engage finding and responding large RFPs and winning them.
Case in point is proposal creation has still not taken the automated approach. Most of the senior Sales and Proposal/Presales leaders I meet on daily basis worry that almost all proposals are written the rudimentary CCP way – “Cut, Copy and Paste”, leading to too many directions and endless changes in proposal orchestration, right from the beginning till the submission time.
As internal stakeholders are many with varying stakes and reviews, problems too are plenty, leading to a last-minute mostly-ineffective proposal. For Sales professionals, Proposals generation is an important step in probing attention with prospective customers, but delayed, cluttered and un-orchestrated proposals can only create unfavorable perceptions about their offerings and shut doors for them.
A Sales SVP of a global MNC voiced out
“Worrying fact is that we always discuss the win ratio and customer retention ratios, but Proposal Automation has still not crept into internal strategy and sales operations efficiency meetings. There lacks a transparent system or tool right from the Proposal writer to the top job, all proposals are always tweaked in the last minute by the most powerful executives, straining the whole system”.
While some efficient organizations have embraced Proposal Automation and Proposal Analytics, there are many more which is yet to realize the benefits of it, even though technology has helped in increasing the efficiency of such proposals and has increased win ratios and customer retention ratios. Proposal Automation and deriving Proposal Analytics surely is a reality, it is not a myth. There exists an option to invest in a 3rd party SaaS product, or to create a home-grown software tool, either way it is not reinventing the wheel, rather it is saving time, effort, money and perception by creating proposals that win, with quality and speed.
The need for proposal automation:
Qvidian in one of its reports (https://uplandsoftware.com/qvidian/) suggest that there exist five major reasons, this report “Five Signs Your Organization Needs Proposal Automation” points to, Busy Experts, Lack of Visibility, Disparate Content, Manual Process and Inconsistency. Very true, I am sure experts agree that there are many more to this list, like:
Starting trouble, especially if it is a multi-tower, multi skilled RFPs, wasting time where and how to start proposal crafting
Wrong or no relevant win strategy, not client focused proposal, too generic, broad brushed, mostly reused which most times are not specific
Less collaboration between sales and Presales (Proposal & Solutioning) teams, later usually follows than being complimentary, they are mostly subdued
Lack of hard hitting value proposition, more of “About us” than “tangible value”.
Lack of hard hitting value proposition, more of “About us” than “tangible value”. I remember a deal which had 17 pages of “About Us”, than Why Us, we lost it, we later heard from customer that the proposal was more about the seller than the customer and how they will solve problems
Limited or no initial participation of main stakeholders, bureaucratic and long approval process, leading to change the very foundation of proposal constructs
Last minute rush during Pricing and P&L calculations, 9/10 proposals modified till last minute of submission. Technology, domain, functional aspects, and strategies mostly gets lost or insignificant during this stage
Less advance planning of Proposal defence, old wine in new bottle, same old canned stale presentations, not customized to the audience or customer issues, I have witnessed at least 50 such presentations
So, what is Proposal Automation software tool?
- A sales enablement and proposal productivity improvement tool that helps organizations quickly create accurate customized proposals, store the various artifacts and gather own inferences
- Multi-level collaboration between globally distributed teams, sharing, collating and crafting customer and RFP specific win strategies with common single version, quick modifications, multiple stakeholders adding their value propositions
- An aggregator of islands like existing CMS and CRMs, where the proposal leader can pick and choose only those artefacts which is discussed and agreed with relevant stakeholders during the win strategy online meetings
- At the base, Proposal Automation software is essentially a database with a set of web pages to it, accessed by all relevant stakeholders to gather, create, contribute, review and have tighter version control on the win strategy, from inception to the submission, leaving less room for last minute changes
- Since it is a database, one can draw various inferences and analytical reports on win- loss analysis, win themes analysis, stakeholder analysis, competition analysis, location or person analysis, sweet and sour spots, leading offerings v/s laggards, etc
Benefits of embracing the Proposal Automation and Proposals Analytics:
- Automate the initial major steps in crafting winning proposals – save reputation, money, time and effort
- Highly client focused value proposition and targeted proposal
- Bring all the internal stakeholders for crafting an apt Win Strategy collaboratively between sales, presales, executives, technology, delivery and finance
- Identify, Choose, co-create, modify value propositions as required and relevant for the deal, based on the stakeholders who evaluate your proposals
- Position and package your proposals eliminating competition, to impress the evaluators/selectors
- Create a tiger team to defend your proposals – not pages of About Us, but value propositions and the value sellers deliver
- Create analytics against what, why, when, where and how, you are winning and losing, get advanced insights, inferences and analytics, this will surely be an internal gold mine
- A platform for upselling and cross selling
I am not referring just for small proposals or tiny presentations, I am referring to orchestrating the entire nine yards of the mammoth proposal for large, complex and strategic deals. Is it a colossal task, definitely not? Most organizations have some kind of CRM and SFA, which already is capturing a subset of the required data, capture the rest of the proposal solutioning parameters too which is currently done on manual basis.
For every RFP you chase and create proposal, be it reactive/solicited RFPs or proactive proposals, you create a lot of artifacts which are already created earlier, leading to additional utilization of time, effort and huge money.
In most proposals, effective reusing is very less and recreating is a practice, re-usability is mostly (or mainly) restricted to copying from a previous proposal that author is aware of. In fact, I urge leaders to not to practice CPP option before drawing the Win Strategy, as a Win Strategy can give you what contents should and should not be copied.
While pursuing an opportunity based on the intensity, size and need of a customer/deal, we capture, discuss, detail these aspects. Unfortunately, almost all of them are never stored in digital format for re-use and we start the same set of activities again, again and again.
For illustration, consider a large company like Wipro Technologies (I love this company for the fact of their constant and never-ending improvisations in large deal pursuits). Across its 23 business (P&L) verticals each of them receives at least 1 RFP and one lead, totaling to 46 a day, 920 a week and 11,040 a year.
Now imagine for your company the quantum is 1/4th the load of Wipro, if so, besides creating winning proposals, imagine the amount of savings you reap in terms of re-usability, human resources cost, effort, burning mid night oil you gain. You have saved enormous amount of time, as time is money, you have saved money!
When it comes to deriving and inferring analytical insights through Proposal Automation, the below list is just an illustration, there are endless possibilities of inferences one can create based on the industry:
- Organization dashboard – list of all deals across all the parent BU and its child BUs. Analytical inferences can be based on BU, Geo, Country, Stakeholders, Competition and sales/presales leaders
- TCV Pipeline Analysis – List of all deals with TCV across all BUs
- Sector/Industry/BU Analysis to assess which are winning v/s losing
- Win Probability analysis – Close to win deals and Near to losing deals
- Geo wise analysis – Which Goes are you winning/losing and for what reasons/offerings/services/leaders/competition
- Country wise win Analysis – Which Countries/States/Regions/Territories/Cities/ are you winning/losing and for what reasons/offerings/services/leaders/competition
- Channel Partner Analysis
- Competition Analysis – Which competition are you wining/losing to, which offerings/services/leaders etc are mostly being affected
- Prescriptive Analysis – On choosing a Parent BU, BU, Industry and Country, list win loss parameters of won/lost deals against competition
- Predictive Analysis – While solutioning a RFP to which competition, geography, offerings, customer segment, BU etc have you traditionally win/lost
- Sales Leader wise deal analysis
- Sales Leader wise Revenue analysis
- Bid Leader wise Deals analysis
- Bid Leader wise Revenue analysis
Win Loss Analysis
- Customer Needs Analysis – which customer dominant needs are you winning or losing and vice versa
- Customer Hot Buttons Analysis – which customer dominant hot buttons are you winning or losing and vice versa
- Win Theme analysis – which win themes are you winning or losing and vice versa
- Proposal/Solution Evaluation parameters analysis – which customer evaluation/selection parameters are you winning or losing and vice versa
- Cross Sell and Up Sell Analysis – assess to which customers segment are you mining well
- Customer stakeholders’ analysis – which stakeholders are you winning/losing with
Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions.
This article originally appeared on pursuitmentors.com