Your sales team has been working hard to close a deal. The customer has been nurtured, and they’re in the sales funnel; the deal is looking good. Then the sales process comes to a screeching halt; the buyer tells your sales rep that the project has to go out to bid.
That’s a risky place to be; once a bid is made public, all the work your sales team has put in might very well go out the window. Your revenue team is also now dependent on the client’s timeline. They’ll be stuck in a holding pattern with this client until the Request for Proposals (RFP) is sent out.
Your organization has two choices: you can wait for the RFP, or you can put together a proactive proposal.
RFP responses vs. proactive proposals
If you’re reading this blog, you likely know what an RFP response is. But just in case: an RFP is a response to a request for proposals from a prospective buyer who is evaluating different products before making a large purchase.
Usually an RFP response is a set of answers to questions posed by the RFP, but it takes the form of a report, featuring charts, graphs, and addressing concerns like budget, scope of work, legal and compliance considerations, and security. Because an RFP response is just that — a response— it is sometimes called a reactive proposal.
On the other hand, a proactive proposal is submitted to a buyer without a formal request. Although a proactive proposal will often contain much of the same information, it’s not answering a list of questions. Instead, a proactive response anticipates those responses by making an argument for why a product or service meets a customers’ unique needs and brings them value.
Why not just wait for the RFP?
Fortune favors the bold; according to research from RAIN Group, buyers prefer proactive sellers, especially when those sellers understand their needs and communicate well. Because a proactive proposal isn’t simply a list of answers to questions, proposal writers must know the buyer’s business problem and be able to communicate how their product or service can help.
This means a proactive proposal is often written with lots of input from the rep who has been working with the prospect, and who knows their problems and what they’re looking for. Written well, a proactive proposal is a strong document, and according to consulting group Strategic Proposals, 78% of buyers say written proposals are the most important part of their evaluation process when they’re choosing a solution.
Also, by waiting for the RFP, a seller risks being overlooked in a crowded field. A proactive proposal may be the only one the buyer is considering.
Preparing your team for proactive proposals
While RFPs and proactive proposals do tend to contain the same information, they’re not the same thing. Because your team isn’t simply following the guidelines laid out by an RFP, they’ll need to work a little differently to create a proposal.
- Don’t use the RFP template: Create a brand new template for proactive proposals. When you’re writing a proposal, you may want to lead with different information than you would in an RFP response. Give your writers the chance to highlight what they find most important.
- Bring in sales: Sales has been doing all the work with the customer so far, so they need to share the information they have in order to help your bid team write the most compelling copy possible. Find out what they know and how much contact they’ve had with the buyer so far and make sure you know the exact pain points they’ve been addressing.
- Make sure you’re working with the right information: Is all your product, compliance, and security information up to date? Ensure you’ve got the best content by keeping a content library of the most accurate information from your internal subject matter experts (SMEs).
- Customize, customize, customize: This proposal should be clearly directed at the customer’s needs. Be buyer-centric and talk about what they want from your product. How can you bring them value? Also, don’t use jargon. This document should be a direct argument for why you can bring value to your customer.
- Automate repetitive parts of the writing process: It can take a long time to write a strong, tailored proposal for your customers. To keep your team’s focus on that part of the work, invest in a solution that automates the tedious parts of the writing process, like searching for the right information from subject matter experts. This can be a game changer; according to Salesforce, 65% of high-performing sales organizations automate the repetitive parts of their proposal process.
Getting ahead of the RFP
Being proactive in sales isn’t always easy; but the payoff can make the risk worth it. To help your sales reps do their job without getting overwhelmed, invest in sales enablement that helps them do their jobs more easily.
Ombud automates content-centric activities in your team’s sales processes. Our platform combines content collaboration, project management, and machine learning to streamline the creation of sales documents like RFP responses, security questionnaires, sales proposals, statements of work, and much more. Interested in learning more about Ombud’s RFP software? Request a demo here.