How do you define guided selling? Where do sales proposals fit into that definition? A leading CPQ software vendor wants to know.
The Importance of High Quality Visuals in Business Proposals
Proposal writing can vary from company to company. In more traditional industries, or those with a small sales team, or even those who don’t need the extra business, it’s common to have a rubber-stamp styled approach to proposals. You offer the same products or services, for exactly the same prices, and in exactly the same format for each and every customer. It’s a predictable, factory-like process that creates no stress and is easy for newcomers to understand.
Unfortunately, most businesses would not do well under this model. Their products and services are too diverse, their clients are too picky, and their potential projects are too different for everything to be so perfectly formulaic. Proposals need to be written specifically for the client, and that means a wealth of proactive research before the proposal writing process can even begin.
The Power of Research
Why research? Research gives you information and understanding about your environment. You may think that you know what the client is asking for, but do you really know who the client is? What their values are? What they look for in a partner, other than what they might have mentioned in an RFP? These bits of information can help you to frame and to shape your proposal, but they aren’t always evident on a superficial level, so you have to do some digging if you want to find them.
Research Tips for Proposal Writing
When it comes to researching a proposal, bear these powerful tips in mind:
1. Focus on actionable conclusions.
Throughout your research process, you’ll be tempted simply to absorb information. You might find out a bit more about the history of the company or their current client base, but you must always frame these new ideas in the context of actionable conclusions. Yes, this company has a lighthearted, flexible spirit, but what does that mean for your proposal? It means that a lighter tone will be more approachable, and a flexible service plan may be appreciated. If you don’t tie your insights back to something measurable and actionable, you’ll be left with too many intangible factors, and you won’t get anywhere.
2. Really get to know the brand.
You know what their brand is and what their company does, but if you want to write for them, you’ll need to immerse yourself a little deeper. See what their audience is like: does this brand face any unique challenges with its audience for which you can compensate? See what kind of values this brand has: do they differentiate themselves by giving back to the community? While most proposals are decided on through logic, aligning yourself with the brand’s vision and reputation can give you the edge that you need in a tight competitive spot.
3. Delve into the company’s history.
You know the brand a little better, but where the brand has been before is almost as important in terms of positioning and understanding. For example, have they recently gone through a rebranding process, with new values and a new image? They may be interested in shifting directions in many ways. Have they broken their historical pattern of handling this service internally? It may mean that they’ll need extra handholding and extra control during the execution phase, which you can play up in your proposal.
4. Learn which other companies they’ve worked with in the past.
Most companies have some kind of record of their previous partnerships and vendors. If you dig deep enough, you’ll be able to find this information. For public organizations like governmental bodies and publicly traded companies, you’ll probably also be able to find previous winners of bids. With this information, you’ll be able to pick out key points of commonality and to include those advantages in your proposal to maximize your chances of winning.
5. Clarify their main goals.
Proposal submissions are a projected exchange of value. Your prospective client has a handful of main goals that they want to achieve, which may be stated or implied. If you can help them to achieve these goals, and do so in a way that maximizes your value, you’ll be in a much better position than if you throw out a basic list of services and hope for the best. You have to match those goals as precisely as possible – and show that you know what those goals are – if you want to stand out from the crowd.
6. Look at their competition.
There are a handful of reasons to look at your prospective client’s competition, but one of the most important is to learn how they differentiate themselves. If they offer better customer service, or a better product, or a different brand voice, you’ll need to recognize that somehow, or account for it, when you describe how you’re going to help them. It may also give you more creative ideas for services that they need to be using (i.e., to keep up with the competition).
7. Look at your competition.
It’s also a good idea to look at your own competition while you’re in the running, especially if you suspect that your competitors will be submitting similar proposals. Obviously, you need to stand out, and you need to make a better offer than your competitors can, but to do that, you first need to know what they’re offering. You won’t be able to find the contents of their proposals specifically, but with adequate competitive research, you’ll get the gist of their typical angles.
With these research tips guiding your path to more information, you’ll gain ample new insights about you, your competition, and your prospective clients that can inform your proposals and give you the edge you need to land new deals.
Proposal writing isn’t always straightforward, but it doesn’t have to be hard. If you’re looking for a way to make the entire process easier from start to finish, consider using iQuoteXpress’s CPQ software. Sign up for a no-obligation free trial today, and you’ll get your hands on all of our features and functions without any commitment.
When it comes to sending a proposal to a prospective client, there are two polarizing forces working against each other. On the one hand, you want to be as careful and meticulous as possible to ensure that the proposal is of the utmost quality. On the other hand, you want to deliver the proposal as fast as possible to increase your chances of being chosen. And, as we all know, this second goal doesn’t always happen the way we wish it would.
The Importance of a Timely Proposal
Timing is everything in the business world. Even just a few hours can mean the difference between landing a massive contract and getting passed over in favor of your closest competitor. However, getting everything completed and handed over to the prospective client isn’t always as practical as it may sound on paper.
“The concept of being able to deliver everything – and I mean everything – on time on any given project is fairly fictional,” writes Brad Egeland of Project Smart. “Sometimes we manage projects with several hundred – or even several thousand – tasks. Staying exactly on track is almost never in the cards.”
What Egeland is saying is that it’s nearly impossible to maintain a perfect track record and meet every deadline from every potential client. While he’s specifically talking about projects that have already been awarded, the same truths apply to project proposals.
The goal isn’t to meet the deadline of every single proposal opportunity that comes across your desk. Instead, you need to narrow your focus down to the ones that matter. These are the critical proposals – the ones that your business absolutely needs to land.
It’s when you begin missing these deadlines that things really start to fall apart. You must do everything that you possibly can to identify the root causes of these delays and work hard to correct any issues that you discover.
Four Reasons Why Your Proposals Are Delayed
Every organization has its own nuances and complexities, but most business owners or project managers will identify with the following common reasons for delayed proposals.
1. Unreasonable Proposal Deadline
The first thing you have to consider is the proposal deadline and whether or not it’s feasible. As soon as an opportunity is presented to you, there needs to be some conversation about the practicality of having a quality proposal completed on time – and the key word is “quality.”
If you’re going to be forced to put together a shoddy proposal in half of the time it typically takes to develop a quality one, then you may be better off putting your energy and resources elsewhere. After all, is your low-quality proposal really going to get accepted?
One of the common reasons why businesses miss proposal deadlines is because they aren’t realistic about the feasibility of completing the proposal on time from the beginning. You can save yourself a lot of embarrassment and wasted effort by only taking on proposals that practically fit your schedule and timetable for completion.
2. Too Much Chatter
There’s a country song that says, “Let’s get on down to the main attraction, with a little less talk and a lot more action.” While the songwriter’s focus was certainly on a different objective, these words happen to ring true when it comes to proposal writing.
Sometimes the biggest reason for delayed proposals is that there’s simply too much talk. The more voices that you have involved in the process, the more likely it is that you’ll encounter delays.
Does Susan from accounting really need to be involved in this proposal, or is she just being nosy? Does a quick proposal for a small contract really need to be sent through every department for approval, or can it go straight to the CEO for an accelerated turnaround? Limit the people involved, and you’ll be amazed how quickly you can get a proposal out of the door.
3. Excessive Meetings
Have you ever seen an episode of the television show, The Office? If you have, you’re familiar with just how many pointless meetings manager Michael Scott calls each day. Here’s a hilarious scene in which his employee, Jim, confronts him on the issue.
While your meeting may not be about pointless things like planets, many of your daily gatherings have about the same constructive value. Going back to the last point, many meetings serve no purpose other than furthering useless chatter. Instead of wasting your employees’ time, let them work on actionable pieces of the proposal.
4. Lack of Motivation
Employee motivation is often at the heart of proposal delivery. If employees are motivated to get a proposal in on time, you can count on it getting completed in a prompt manner. However, if they have no real reason to finish the proposal by a certain date, chances are good that it’ll be delayed.
When it comes down to it, you need to focus on motivation. How can you encourage your employees to work more efficiently in order to meet deadlines? Sometimes, you may need to attach a tangible reward or bonus to the proposal, while other times, some verbal affirmation can do the trick. Think about this, and focus some effort on keeping employees engaged and on-task.
Contact iQuoteXpress Today
At iQuoteXpress, we believe that every organization needs to master proposal management. Whether you send one or two proposal a year or dozens per month, you need to focus on the small things so you can maximize your return.
One of these not so small things is efficiency. When sending a proposal to a prospective client, you need to do so with promptness. At iQuoteXpress, that’s where we come into play. Our CPQ software technology delivers value by accelerating the proposal process and enabling sales organizations to deliver accurate and precise quotes in as little time as possible.
If you’re interested in a customized solution that’s tailored to your organization’s individual needs and objectives, then you’ve come to the right place. Please contact us today, and we’d be happy to answer any questions that you may have and to provide you with a free, no-obligation demo.