Proposal Management: the missing qualification piece
I recently spoke at my partner Qvidian’s Connect11 User Conference for proposal management folks. As part of my talk, I did homework to understand the issues the field faced so I could help them be more successful. In my research I discovered:
1.proposal managers are responding to literally hundreds of unqualified RFPs annually with no capability of determining what a qualified prospect would look like… and therefore spending a whole chunk of time unnecessarily;
2. they experience communication issues between the sales folks, knowledge management folks, and the proposal folks;
3. they have trouble being differentiated, as so many of the other proposals end up looking similar (ie. the solutions are similar);
4. RFP initiators don’t know what Change Management/implementation issues they will face once the solution is chosen and therefore usually do not add a Change Management request into the RFP;
5. sometimes there is an intermediary/consultant hired to manage the RFP process and this person doesn’t have the right answers – and isn’t asking good-enough questions to go back to their client to check.
So, net net, it ends up being a crap-shoot.
QUALIFY, CONTROL, IMPLEMENT
The major problems can be resolved if the entire proposal management process were managed differently.
1. it’s necessary to be willing to say ‘no’ to unqualified prospects and concentrate on the ones that have at least a 50% chance of closing. That means that the sales folks have to find a way to say ‘no’ without harming the existing or future relationship. Not to mention that it’s necessary to know how to qualify.
2. it’s vital that RFP initiators understand what the change management process will look like before, during and after an implementation, so they can prepare for it and choose a vendor/solution who will manage this aspect well. With a good solution and a poor change management process, the company loses.
Proposals should have a way to include up-front questions that will help the RFP initiators to determine how the new solution would cause potential change issues, and then have a section within the proposal that will help them manage these. This will also differentiate one proposal from another.
3. RFP initiators don’t always know how to choose one vendor over another as the solutions and proposals might look similar. If the proposal includes a change management appendix, plus a way to ensure the full Buying Decision Team is in agreement as to solution/change criteria, they will be instantly differentiated.
4. there must be clear communication and shared criteria between the sales folks, the proposal folks,and the knowledge management folks. In the proposal, it’s possible to add a questionnaire in the appendix to ensure everyone is on board.
Qvidian has a fantastic proposal management suite (Sant Suite – and I met the brilliant Tom Sant who developed this beloved material.). The best route forward, to organize and replicate shared knowledge throughout an organization, is to use the Suite.
I’m developing a package to add to the Suite that will manage the above issues. Ultimately, you want your proposals group:
- to spend the most time on the qualified RFPs that have the best chance of closing;
- how to determine if it’ s judicious to ignore, or send a ‘NO THANKS package [see below for contents*]’ to those RFPs you’ve decided not to respond to (with a low chance of winning) but want to offer something to maintain/develop the relationship;
- to help everyone in the process communicate to ensure that the knowledge, solution data, and placement are all in agreement with company standard, and that all are tracking wins and losses to determine how future proposals will be handled;
- to communicate with the RFP initiator, and ensure that the change management piece is somehow managed – either within the proposal or as an appendix;
- to help the RFP initiators know their selection criteria, and choose you;
- to help build a culture change between the RFP group and the sales folks.
Not all of these capabilities are available with current proposal management software. But I’ve got some new questionnaires and appendix items.
I’ve developed a *NO THANKS package for those times that the RFP is not qualified and you want to keep them happy anyway, that includes:
- change management guide for users, technology, managers, Buying Decision Team;
- questionnaire to get everyone on board with same vendor-choice criteria.
Let’s chat, if you want to add some new capability to your Sant Suite, or for your proposal team. I can discuss the Sant Suite with you and show you why/how it’s so vital to be an important part of your proposal writing, and how to add a few front and back bits to qualify and differentiate.
Hear Sharon Drew discuss Buying Facilitation® as interviewed by Qvidian.
Fire up your sales folks at your next sales conference, have Sharon Drew give your keynote.