Proposal management tips from a pro
Q: What do you get asked about most often?
A: I’m frequently asked about the best way to attain consistent tone, messaging and styles in final proposals - whether it is a Request for Proposal or Proactive Proposal. The main issue that bid managers struggle with is inconsistent content. It is often lying in different locations, on different computers, across the company. This content differs from one person’s computer to another. Some may have cleaned it up in terms of tone, messaging and styles and some might not have. Regardless of which, you cannot achieve consistency in this manner as everyone has their own way of doing things.
When building a proposal document without the use of proposal management software, you are building the document one step at a time - introducing many conflicting tones, messaging and styles. This results in a document that does not have good flow, doesn’t look good and doesn’t convey the right message. In order to avoid this, content must be cleansed by a Content Manager, whose sole role is to maintain the centralized and version controlled pool of approved content to be used in proposals. If these steps can be done properly, in conjunction with using a proposal management tool that strictly controls use of approved, version controlled and cleansed content, as well as centralized repository for this content, then half the battle is already won before.
Q: How important are labelling conventions?
A: When faced with 100’s to 1000’s of pieces of content, it is imperative that content be named intuitively, descriptively and consistently. If everyone has a different labelling convention, all that will be achieved is mass confusion amongst the Bid/Proposal team who need to be able to quickly find the right content without wasting time downloading and opening each proposed match.
Q: And when it comes to using proposal software, any tips?
A: Making the most out of proposal management software relies on one core ingredient: content that’s consistent and of a high quality. You cannot compile a proposal without good, solid content.
Q: What are bid managers getting wrong?
A: Many bid managers fail to ensure that their proposals relay the fact that they’ve heard the customer’s pain point, as well as the fact that they have the expertise to address and solve them. Generic or ‘vanilla’ proposals that are not tailored to specific needs and situations, do not win business. Avoid this by listing your features in relation to the customer’s needs and dress your weaknesses up as strengths (where possible).
Q: What are the benefits of using proposal management software?
A: Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the software, you stand to benefit from content that’s clean, written in the appropriate tone and consistent in layout and style. Managing content is far simpler too, as proposal management software stores everything in one easily accessible place. In addition, all content is strictly controlled, providing uniformity across a vast range of content.
What’s more, the Bid/Proposal team can also make use of this centralized, easily searchable, clean content quickly and easily. They’re then able to build their proposal directly from within their document - without having to jump from system to system and copy and paste as they go along.
Q: What should bid managers be aware of when using proposal management software?
A: As I mentioned, consistency is the name of the proposal management game. Bid managers need to be curators. This entails constantly checking in with all collaborators, as well as regularly cleaning up content – two non-negotiables when it comes to the pivotal role a bid manager plays in proposal management software.
If the bid manager is unable to do this, the company will need to hire a content manager. For the most part, bid managers are too busy to do this. However, they can aid in this this process by being responsible for suggesting new winning content that they’ve either written from scratch or old content that’s been improved.
Q: What effect does proposal management software have on win rates?
A: Proposal management software increases win rates. Professional presentation and the ability to personalize proposals in line with your customers’ needs are a couple of the reasons why. It's vital to relay the fact that you understand your client, it goes a long way in establishing trust and ultimately winning them over.